Decked out in eye-catching art and designer patterns, Ham Yard Hotel is a thriving hotspot in the heart of Soho. Part of Firmdale Hotels, this celeb-drawing, central London address invites you to rub shoulders with local media types, who covet its buzzy cocktail bar and restaurant, especially at weekends. There's a bowling alley, cinema room and a serene Soholistic spa, but it's owner-designer Kit Kemp's signature mismatched textiles, tapestries and fabrics that really stand out. The fourth-floor roof terrace is also a pleasant surprise, with views across Soho's jumbled rooftops and two bee hives which produce the hotel's honey. Best not tell the media types…
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £577.50, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates usually don’t include breakfast (a full English is £14).
The gorgeous Ham Yard Theatre – all tangerine seats (176, in fact), electric-blue walls and fuchsia silk curtains – can be hired for private events. It’s a grand space, complete with a dress circle, and has its own Dive Bar (named for the neon diving lady on the wall).
At the hotel
Bowling alley, theatre, library, selection of DVDs, concierge, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TVs, minibars, Kit Kemp’s range of Rik Rak toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The spacious deluxe rooms are all individually designed with their own mix of art, pattern and bright bursts of colour. The elegant, two-bedroom Terrace Suite has a vast living room (as well as its own compact kitchen, handily stocked with Sipsmith spirits). It’s home to acres of terrific textiles, and two particularly impressive beds (Firmdale hotels really know how to do a magnificent headboard). The star attraction, though, is the terrace with views of the London skyline. If you're looking for peace and quiet, ask for a room on a higher floor when booking – rooms above the terrace can be noisy in the evenings.
Bring your binoculars for checking out the neighbouring rooftops from the terrace… and your best bowling outfit.
All public areas are wheelchair accessible, and some rooms are specially adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome. Free cots and extra beds (£65 a night) can be added to rooms; babysitting is available for £20 an hour (four hours minimum). There are children's menus, books and games, and mini robes, milk and cookies are available at bedtime.
The restaurant’s booths give a pleasingly private air, so every table’s good. Request a spot near the kitchen if you’d like to watch the chef at work.
Wear something chic and minimalist, so you won’t have to fret about clashing with the perfectly patterned chairs, walls and whatnot.
The spacious (and frequently bustling) restaurant stretches around the corner into a laid-back conservatory-esque space, bathed in natural light, and on the other side there’s a drawing room space tucked away for discreet dining (or afternoon tea, which is served all day in the drawing room and restaurant). The team mostly serves up creative takes on traditional dishes, such as roast duck with baby globe artichokes and aubergine, and Aberdeenshire sirloin with Jersey royals. For a flashback to childhood, order the strawberry Arctic roll for dessert.
From chorizo sausage rolls with rapeseed mayonnaise to the Black Margarita with thyme fat-washed tequila, the bar’s menu is nothing if not inventive (and delicious). If you feel like something simpler, visit the honesty bar in the library and serve yourself.
Breakfast is served 7–11am; snacks are available at the bar day and night. Last orders in the restaurant are usually around 10.30–11pm.
Have snacks and drinks delivered to your door 24 hours a day, and restaurant dishes during opening hours.
You’ll find the hotel in (where else?) Ham Yard, tucked away down a side street a few minutes’ walk from Picadilly Circus.
Touch down at London Heathrow, an hour’s drive from the hotel (or you could hop on the Picadilly tube line – it’s a direct route from the airport).
The nearest overground train station is London Charing Cross, where you can catch services around the southeast all the way to Dover. The nearest underground station is Picadilly, but you’re also walking distance from Leicester Square, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross, depending on where you’re travelling to or from.
If you do decide to drive in Central London (it’s not fun) then there’s valet parking available for £60 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
Soho and the surrounding areas have long been the place Londoners and visitors alike have come to have fun. From the West End’s world-famous theatres to some of the city’s best eats, all London’s best bits surround you here.
Ham Yard is home to not just the hotel, but also a mini village of top-notch shops. My Cup of Tea is just the place to try and buy some of the world’s best blends, and for Rio-inspired swimwear and beach accessories, Frescobol Carioca is the spot. Brummells of London, a ‘luxe apothecary’, stocks fine frangrances, skincare treats and more.
You’re not far from a host of top theatres at Ham Yard, but the Piccadilly Theatre is right next door on Denman Street. It generally shows blockbuster productions, à la Jersey Boys. Some of the world’s best shopping awaits on Regent Street, an easy walk from the hotel.
For exceptional Italian food in glamorous surroundings, Ham Yard's concierge recommends you head to Bocca di Lupo: it’s ideal for lunch or dinner, and perfect for checking out your stylish fellow diners. An astonishingly ambitious restaurant, pâtisserie and art hub (that isn’t to everyone’s taste) Sketch is as creative as they come. Soho’s bars aren’t all about cocktails: Ham Yard Village’s Press Juice Bar serves up double-filtered, non-blended juices packed with nutrients.
I've been to London countless times; as someone who comes from New York, I find there is a kindred spirit with this city that makes it both familiar and easy. There’s a great energy, exciting food, historic architecture and charming neighbourhoods – of which I wouldn't have considered Piccadilly to be one. So, when I heard that our hotel stay was just off Piccadilly Circus – the equivalent of New York’s Times Square – I hesitated. Our hotel’s name, Ham Yard, did not exactly conjure glamour. Two strikes, and we’d not even arrived. However, knowing Firmdale hotel group and loving London, we persevered. We are very happy that we did.
Away from the dirty hustle of the Theatre District and at the gritty edge of Soho is the quaint alley that is Ham Yard. As you stroll down Great Windmill Street – with its pockets of chic popping up in a few hip shops that used to be sleazier establishments – you could almost miss Ham Yard. The hotel’s ‘passage’ leads to the Yard itself, with Tony Cragg’s sculpture at its centre and a bevy of interesting boutiques radiating around it making it an interesting shopping destination in its own right. (Ahem, full disclosure – our unisex skincare brand, MALIN+GOETZ, is available at Brummells of London, straight across from the hotel’s entrance).
Quirky, fun, luxe, artsy, comfortable – Ham Yard’s lobby, it is in a true Firmdale aesthetic. It has a very uniquely modern English look that is both cheeky and sophisticated. I am a particular fan of the choices of art. Near the elevator is a giant white-and-black wall-dominating ’clock’: a huge rectangle of many small timepieces, the hands of each moving continually to sometimes cunningly show the current time. You can stand, meditatively, and watch it for hours. There is a wonderful collage in the elevator too (consistent with the other properties) that spells out the name ‘Ham Yard’. And, I love artist Peter Clark's dog references that have come to be Firmdale classics. It all feels just right in the space.
With its floor-to-ceiling casement window overlooking this pristine hidden courtyard, our guest room was fantastic. But the standout here is the bath. Gracious and spacious, the grey-granite ensuite has more details than I can even remember to tell you about. There’s a television with perfect surround-sound embedded in the wall, and the separate shower stall could easily fit two (hint, hint) plus there are double sinks that allow for ample and individualised morning prep time.
While Ham Yard Hotel is a terrific addition to the many fabulous hotels London has to offer (clearly – it won Best Newcomer in the 2014 Smith Hotel Awards) the only possible criticism could be that the service in the vast ground-floor restaurant seemed to have some kinks to work out when we breakfasted there. But the best-of-British food was delicious and in keeping with a foodie scene that has become reason alone to visit London. Next time we go back, I have no doubt that the service will be up to the same standard. Wait – and there’s more. Downstairs, the Croc is the hotel's own very cool authentically retro bowling alley (ten-pin lanes are inherently cool, of course, but this one’s particularly special: the collection of bowling shoes lining the wall as you walk in took months of research to gather). The bar has psychedelic blue walls studded with countless bright-hued butterflies… and a handful of life-size crocodiles, naturally, to chime with the name.
Up on the roof, past a large portrait of the Queen, is the hotel’s inviting roof terrace – there are few better places from which to admire Soho’s rooftops, plus the leafy herb-filled garden supplies the kitchen below. As an amateur Hudson Valley gardener in New York, English gardens are (of course) an inspiration. This little suntrap does not disappoint. As you enter the fourth-floor gulp of green off of the elevator bank, there is a lovely covered (and heated) outdoor seating area. This is the real glory. The adjacent boxed parterre is anchored with a craggy old olive tree – gorgeous. I couldn’t resist getting a photo of myself on the beautiful faux bois bench (I am now on a search for one just like this) in front of this wonderful olive specimen. Beyond is a charming picket-enclosed vegetable patch, kale dusted with a light frost, and surrounded by the most delightful display of espaliered fruit trees: a picture perfect screening wall to the noisy streets below. I took a heap of photos, so you can expect our garden in Upstate New York to feel slightly more English by summer. Well, just you try and visit Ham Yard’s leafy top without taking lots of snapshots too…